This year Wire celebrate the fortieth anniversary of their first gig as a four piece. Or their first true Wire gig. Or something. It’s an anniversary year. However, not being a band that seems to want to look back, they’ve decided to put out a new album, which is called Silver / Lead, which is interesting as it doesn’t sound like the kind of album that will give you some sort of poisoning if you’re not careful. Nor does it sound like the kind of album that you’d use to shovel food into your mouth.
Where am I going with this?
Whether a conscious decision or not, Wire have continued their focus on how the textures of their instruments overlay with each other rather than how each instrument sounds. In doing so, the songs on Silver / Lead sound full or sparse whenever they need to be. It works to the album’s benefit greatly as many of the songs are more mid-tempo than usual and use breathing space between each sound. Had everything been as full as possible, the songs would fall flat.
Other than the focus on textures, this is also in part due to an adamant refusal to use anything to excess. In “Playing Harp for the Fishes”, there’s additional sounds that build on the melody throughout the song, coming and going where required instead of being continuous and threatening to take focus from the song.
On “Silver / Lead”, additional guitar sounds occasionally build on the atmosphere without altering its feel.
Other songs such as “Short Elevated Period” and “This Time” have just about everything in place from the start, almost being structured around and coalescing with more atmospheric sounds that sit slightly behind everything else.
With that being said, there are some tracks that aren’t as strong as they could be. “Brio” and “Forever & a Day” come off as a bit too samey at times, almost sounding like lesser versions of other tracks on the album and a number of songs could have been leftover from previous album sessions. With that being said, Silver / Lead is not harmed for it as the songs do work quite well together, sounding like a continuation whilst also moving forward into something new.
There’s a lot of questioning in the lyrics that can be found on Silver / Lead. It would have been easy to slip into sadness and pessimism because of this, but instead of doing so, they feel quite balanced with the music, coming across as carefully considered as to what they do to the songs. Furthermore, It seems that the use of questions serve more as a counterpoint to lyrics that serve as vague metaphors in that they work with ambiguity whilst also being partially direct instead of being the focus. There also seems to be a sense of searching threaded through the songs that seems to be left open to interpretation more than definitely resolved.
On Silver / Lead, Wire have shown once again that they are a band that is always moving forward. The songs are solid enough and, whilst some of it sounds like other things they’ve released, . It’s not the strongest album that they’ve released, but there is more than enough to make it worth hearing.